by Wolfgang von Zaftig
     and Patrique vaan Straade

PART ONE:
PREPARING TO SEE A SHOW

Wolfgang: Going to see a show, on Broadway or Off, is an easy thing to do. Buy a ticket, go to the theatre, watch the show, go home. Doing it right, and with style, is the hard part. We're here to make sure the experience is maximized.

Rule #1 - Carefully choose your companions

We recommend you have at least one true queen (apart from yourself) in the group. Just as important as the show, is what everyone is wearing, both on stage and off. Any good Drama Queen will have to comment on every fashion faux pas. This will help the after show conversation, should there be little about the show worthy of detailed discussion.

Patrique: There you go combining rules again, including Rule #7 (Wardrobe) with all of its sub-clauses with Rule #2 (Choosing Your Companions.) Rule #1 is, of course, choosing the proper show. As you say, any Hoboken Hausfrau can buy a ticket, go to the theatre, etc. But style necessitates choosing the proper show: nothing with a Hollywood actor as the star (unless it's Paul Rudd and he's in fetching beachwear), nothing that had its start as a drawing (dancing savanna grasses and knives? I don't think so!), and nothing that is 'high concept' (unless there's a damn good reason for it, like doing Swan Lake the way it should have been done from the start!)

Wolfgang: How can you say Rule #1 is choosing a show? Who you go with will determine what you are going to see. If you have a group of six people (which I would never recommend, three should be the maximum) and you decide to see Cabaret, how would you ever get tickets for all of you to sit together?

But, ruling out Hollywood actors before knowing their past stage experience is awfully discriminatory. The correct wording should be don't choose a show just because a Hollywood actor is in it. Are you going to see the show or the actor? Seeing a show because a Broadway star is in it is perfectly acceptable, although can be just as fatal. We'll be going to see Annie Get Your Gun just to see Bernadette again, even after seeing her in The Goodbye Girl.

Next, don't start assigning random numbers to rules, because wardrobe is definitely higher than 7; in my handbook it lists as 4.

Patrique: I stand corrected and properly chastised. You are, of course, right; choosing the right group will determine the right show.

Wolfgang: Rule #3 - Buy your tickets

Although you can be cheap and buy your tickets at TKTS or, heaven forbid, get up early and stand in line for Rush tickets, I suggest you call Ticketmaster or Telecharge far in advance. You need as much time possible to plan this event.

Patrique: Agreed. While the money saved on rush or TKTS tickets - I just love that quasi-alliterative phrase "TKTS tickets," but I digress - could come in handy for a pre-show aperitif, or even go towards your wardrobe, the time could be better used elsewhere. Plus, buying the tickets directly from the box office saves that awful Ticketmaster surcharge, the price of a Stoli black gibson alone!, and lets you get an idea of A) location and B) d├ęcor, so you can plan your wardrobe accordingly.

Wolfgang: Although this rule is "Buy your tickets," we are by no means saying you should not accept comp tickets or tickets given as a gift. (We'll tell you how to be offered comps later.) When buying or accepting tickets, location is extremely important. Your best bet is to be in the front third of the orchestra, always center. This location has many benefits, the primary one being it's the best place to be seen. The added benefit is that you get the best view of the stage.

Patrique: And you don't have to worry about obnoxious patrons constantly tripping over you to get to their seats or in leaving their seats because they forgot to gauge the amount of liquid consumed versus the length of the show. This saves wear and tear on your nerves and your shoes.

Of course, if you are seated in the center, make sure you are a conscientious theatregoer and keep your entrances and exits to a minimum. Networking is fine and dandy, but that is why God created the intermission. Unless it's the Crown Princess of Moldavia or Stephen Sondheim, you really do not need to schmooze until the break.

Rule #4 - Plan your wardrobe

One cannot stress enough the importance of wardrobe in creating the perfect theatrical experience. For let us not forget, one of theatre's functions has been, from the start, to be seen. The decline of style in the theatregoer's wardrobe is simply appalling. Leave the RENT-ware to the RENT-heads and dress to the nines.

Wolfgang: Naturally it's important to look fabulous, but you need not spend a lot of money on your wardrobe. The most important thing is to be noticed in a positive way. I've said this before; "any attire that reflects light, is never appropriate." Sweeties, leave the lame and sequins to second-rate Cabaret singers and middle-aged housewives getting dolled up for New Year's Eve. Visit the local thrift shops and add some vintage pieces to your wardrobe. "Vintage" attire, by the way, does not include anything after 1949 (unless its something Ricky Ricardo would wear to the club), so keep the bell-bottoms and sweater vests buried in the attic.

Patrique: One more caveat for wardrobe: always keep Elaine Stritch's statement as gospel, and refrain from the wearing of headgear.

Wolfgang: Rule #5 - Inform everyone of your plans

Never underestimate how many people live vicariously through you. They truly want to know when you are going to see a show, where you will be seated and what you plan to wear.

Patrique: It also has the benefit of helping some of these poor, unfortunate shows bring in an audience. Why, the two of us were helping fill the houses long before that Irish upstart in the pantsuits. Not to name names, but let's just say that a certain show, currently moving into one of our old hangouts, (where we were always let in, darlings) would not be nearly as successful as it is had we not repeatedly mentioned that we would be in attendance. (Whether, in fact, we actually went or not is another story.)

Rule # 6 - Know your show

Time was when the revival was a rare beast and considered inferior theatre. (Of course, I was not around back then, being a fresh-faced theatregoer myself.) But lately, some of the best shows are revivals like Cabaret and View From The Bridge. To see truly original works, one must often venture into the murky waters of Off- or (God help us) Off-Off Broadway. Thus, rules governing the viewing of revivals have come into being.

I am sure that all of you have every variation ever released of every musical, from the Korean Evita to Sweeney in Swahili. If not, how can you hold your head up high and call yourselves true DQs? After all, it is essential, nay, mandatory to listen to every known recording of a show prior to seeing it. You would not see a play without having read all of the reviews in order to determine if it is worth seeing, now would you? The same applies to musicals. Also, how else would you be able to gauge the actors' and actresses' recreation of the roles? You must be able to compare them to La Belle Merman, La Diva Lupone et al, or you will have little to discuss during the interval.

Rule #7 - Choose the appropriate backstage gift and card

Now surely everybody knows somebody who is appearing in the show you are going to see, and it does not matter if they are the loftiest of stars or the lowliest of chorines; everybody likes their pressies. And the gifty you send backstage via Ralph the doorman reflects not only on you, but has a serious effect on how long you will wait backstage before being sent up to visit. Flowers are always appropriate. (Roses, red, and on the plump side.) Homemade gifts are nice but if you are not Martha Stewart you may want to skip the decoupage of their old posters and Playbills. Personally, I like spending a few hours each day looking for that perfect gift; a limoge piano for Mr. Stokes, a tattered teddy worn by Mae West for Alan - or if he's out, it works just as well for Jennifer.

Wolfgang: We seem to have everything ready for our night at the theatre. (Note: I did say night at the theatre. The full effect of your glamour is truly lost on the matinee audience.) Presuming you have spent the day making yourself gorgeous for the theatre, you are ready for the next step.

Rule #8 - Transportation

Arrange to have a car take you to the theatre. I shouldn't have to elaborate here, but I shall. Even if you happen to live next door, you simply cannot be seen walking to the theatre. The dangers of the street to your outfit are too many to list. Taking a cab is not an option due to the smells, which may permeate your clothes. Hiring a car and driver is simply the only option.

Patrique: Oh so true. And you do not need to go all-out. While limos are nice (and a wonderful way to get all of your friends in one place at one time as they, let's be charitable, may not be the world's most stable and organized of folk), town cars work just as well. Although there is something to be said about the, shall we say, amenities that a limo provides. (Namely the lack of lines for a drink and a space to discuss the show without the bother of being overheard by a producer / writer / director or, God forbid, a reviewer which may result in (shudder) being quoted.)

Wolfgang: Rule # 9 - Arrive at the theatre promptly

Arrive at the theatre one half hour before showtime (showtime refers to the actual start of the show, not the time printed on the ticket), With this half-hour, you are able to make your way to the bar for the customary before show cocktail. What you order to drink is as important as what you wear. The drink must not clash with your ensemble. Although drinks made with Blue Curacao may not always be the tastiest, they do draw attention to you when in a crowded lobby filled with people with clear or light colored drinks in their hands. And the crowds will get out of your way fast if it's blue and you act as if you are going to spill it.

Patrique: Do remember to gauge the amount you drink against the length of the first act! This is especially true when you have enjoyed the amenities of a limo. Les Miz and Ragtime have reduced the uninitiated into literal puddles of pain, which is a sure sign of the neophyte.

Rule #10 - Purchase properly

While I am well aware that a Broadway theatre is akin to a candy store, do exercise moderation in your theatrical purchases. Yes, the programs are lovely and make a wonderful remembrance. And one can never have too many key chains, coffee mugs, Beanie Babies, aprons, et al. But remember, darlings, A) you do have to keep these things at your feet throughout the show, B) you must carry them around with you during the break (after all, there are all sorts of, shall we say, less than honest people about who would steal your stuffed Cosette and sell it to the White Way Slavers in a heartbeat) and, most importantly, C) those bags clash with whatever you are wearing. Trust me, Phantom masks do not go with any ensemble. Unless you have your limo parked outside (always a wise choice) or have remembered to ensconce your assistant in the third balcony for such an emergency, remember why God created One Schubert Alley and Triton Gallery.

Wolfgang: When purchasing your souvenir programs, do remember to buy two, and get them autographed when you go backstage after the show. These items make wonderful contributions to charity auctions.

Ah, my Darlings, we have been in the lobby long enough.

Rule #11 - Enter the Auditorium with style

A few minutes after the time printed on your ticket, it is time to enter the theatre to take your seat. Remember, no good theatre ever starts on time, nor do they ever start more than 10 minutes after the time printed on your ticket. Now is the most crucial time to be seen. Do you truly need an usher to show you to your seat? I'm sure we all know the alphabet, and besides, you did check your seat location on the seating chart or in your copy of STUBS, didn't you? Take this moment to walk down the aisle looking your absolute best! Simply accept the Playbill from the usher and politely inform him/her that you know where you are seated.

Patrique: And do try to snag a few extra Playbills at intermission. They make wonderful gifts to the unfortunates who do not have the luxury of seeing the shows. Why, I have a dear friend who used the Playbills I gave her over the years as wallpaper in her spare bedroom. I have to admit that while it is a nice effect in the daytime, trying to get a night's rest while having Cats and Cosette staring at you is a bit disconcerting.

And remember, courtesy counts, loves. Avoid stepping on the toes of the poor souls who did not have enough friends with whom to mingle before the show, and did not know enough to wait until you arrived to take their seats. Also, there has been a great debate as to the preferred and polite way of traveling down a row. Does one move across a row so that one is facing the stage or your fellow row-member? Personally, either way can be distressing to the poor dears already seated, unless they happen to be true gentlemen and rise to let you pass. But it is my belief one should put ones best face forward and if that means that they are gauche enough to stare at a spot below the belt, well so be it!

Wolfgang: Next time we'll give you the rules for watching a show properly. Now remember what we've told you so far, and we'll see you at intermission.

Patrique: My goodness, I am quite spent just getting ready! Time to retire with a Stoli Black Gibson - very dry, with three tomatillos - and take a soak - with one of Lush's wonderful bath products, of course - to regroup, recharge, and write part II.


If you have question or comments, email Wolfgang or Patrique.

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